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''Veronica Mars''

By RD Heldenfels Published: December 7, 2005

Kind of a snore tonight, although I suspect they knew that going in. And so tried to save it with that scene at the end.

Snore 1: That Meg was the character who died. She was, after all, toast in the alternate ending online last week, and -- while viewers preferred the original, televised ending -- the alternate ending offers the possibility that her death was not as described in tonight's show. But even if you didn't see the alternate ending, there was that Big Fat Hint early in this episode, when she worries that she might die and wants Veronica to see that her child is taken care of.

Snore 2: The jury story. Oh, it had some good things, especially the way that Veronica did not save the day; it was another juror who got to be Henry Fonda -- or Robert Cummings, if you know your old-TV history. A very different character who ''sees all sides of every question and constantly seeks the truth.'' (That's from the original ''12 Angry Men,'' by Reginald Rose. Yeah, I'm showing off a little.) The jury story also set up a way for Veronica to stay in Neptune after high school, an issue that's been lurking in the background this season. But the whole thing still felt a little too by-the-numbers.

Snore 3: Well, not a snore, just a nagging question. Why is Steve Guttenberg, who does not rank among our better actors, in this show -- and what is the deal with his eyebrows? They bugged me all through ''Poseidon Adventure,'' and they're bugging me here, too.

Disappointment: The way the stolen tapes may bring Aaron Echolls back on the scene. He's a thoroughly creepy character but Neptune is hip-deep in creeps. Bringing him back feels redundant, and I don't expect redundancy on ''Veronica.'' And the rationale for why the deputy stole the tapes felt like something taken from a much inferior show.

So was there a plus side? Well, there was the look on Logan's face as he watched the tapes. There was just about everything Enrico Colantoni did. And there was the return of Wallace, whom I missed very much, so much that his return almost made me forgive all the shortcomings of the episode.

Almost. This feels like one of those mid-season slumps even good shows sometimes suffer. Let's hope it proves brief.

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